The partial shutdown of the federal government revealed the ugly side of our national politics. As Americans struggle to recover from the Great Recession, federal lawmakers continue to furiously volley back and forth on how to pay for a bloated budget with money they do not have. The morale of the American people is waning, for our nation’s leaders have failed to inspire confidence in the people they serve.
Perhaps now is the time to remind Americans of the significance of state governments. While being heard by Congress seems like a monumental task, Americans can talk to—and be heard by—their state lawmakers. State governments are best suited to address local issues, and together, a chorus of state lawmakers can elicit real change in a state’s direction and hold sway over the federal government.
The United States Constitution was designed with state governments in mind. The 10th Amendment gives power to the states and to the people and reminds all Americans they do have a seat at the table. And, while the federal government was shut down, state governments were open and fully functional. States have bills to pay, promises to keep and their constituents to serve.
Significant to state governments is their relationship with their citizens. State officials live and work among their constituents, and it is much easier to hear the praises and protests of your constituents when they are your neighbors. This type of relationship is what keeps state governments accountable and helps them more easily reflect the needs of their residents. Governing from 2,000 miles away is a difficult task, and it is no wonder people say Congress and the Administration are detached from the rest of the nation: they physically are.
In Iowa and 47 other states, the law requires a balanced budget, and states’ taxation policies, education policies, environmental policies and other policies give them their own unique signatures. The beauty of state governments is not their similarities, but their differences. These differences give Americans the ability to make decisions on what is best community by community, from deciding in which state to live to which state to own a business. State governments provide choice for the American people, and those choices are what allow Americans to make decisions best suited for them.
State governments are representative of the government our founders envisioned: of the people, by the people and for the people. Returning the balance of power back in favor of the states would return us closer to the model intended by the framers of the Constitution. It may also be our best opportunity to avoid the crippling impact of dysfunction in Washington D.C.
This shutdown marked the 18th time the federal government has shut down since 1976. Certainly it seems the federal government is willing to use the American people as a bargaining chip. Perhaps it is time to remind the federal government of its purpose. If government is emblematic of the people it serves, then our federal government does not hold the American people in high regard.
While there will always be differences in opinion, state governments show that regular compromise can be achieved and that opposing parties can work together. It is time the federal government looked to the states as models of leadership.
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